|It's being so cheerful as keeps her going|
It is fair to say that the maternity ward we are honouring with our patronage does not inspire great confidence. As in every NHS hospital I have ever had the misfortune to visit, whether as a visitor or a patient, everyone appears to be frantically busy to the point of overstretch, yet it is never at all clear what they are actually doing. Rare instances of baby-snatching elsewhere have inspired them to lock the door to the ward, and make it accessible only by ringing a bell. The snag, as I remembered from Mrs H’s incarceration there following the birth of The Boy, is that there is never anyone around to hear said bell and respond to it. So you stand there, peering through the glass panel in the door, and every so often a uniformed member of staff wanders past and stares back, but makes no attempt to admit you. The saving grace is the high proportion of patients defiantly addicted to nicotine, so that eventually we were able to sneak in as one let herself out to add to the huge mountain of fag ends outside the building, directly beneath the notice prohibiting smoking anywhere on the hospital site.
We had been told to arrive around 11. Through our own disorganization, we were around 45 minutes late. Which was lucky, because we then had to wait for an hour while they “cleaned” a room in order to admit Mrs H. I have applied inverted commas to “cleaned” because I noted that there was still dried blood on the underside of the lavatory seat, which made me wonder whether anything else had received closer attention. Though, of course, there was a big notice on the door of the bathroom advising that it was STRICTLY FOR PATIENT’S USE ONLY and that ALL visitors must use the facilities elsewhere, so I suppose the cleaner would have been working on the safe assumption that a lady would never need to raise the seat and inspect the underside.
The light in the bathroom did not work, and the cord that was supposed to operate it had been ripped from the ceiling. I pointed this out to a member of staff, who regretted that nothing could be done about it as there were no maintenance staff on site on a Sunday. Nor many doctors, it would seem, to judge by the hours it took to find one to sign the correct prescription for Mrs H’s steroids. To look on the positive side, at least someone did spot that the original prescription supplied for her was completely wrong before the drugs were injected into her.
I read recently that being admitted to hospital on a Sunday increased a patient’s chances of death by 16 per cent. This is beginning to seem like a suspiciously low number.
The Boy accompanied us to hospital and thoughtfully munched a cheese sandwich in the day room while we waited for his mother’s room to become available. Then his grandparents arrived and whisked him away. I had asked him over breakfast whether he would prefer to be looked after by Daddy or Grandma while Mummy was away, trying to sell the Daddy idea by claiming that we could eat nothing but chocolate for four days.
He gave me a withering, sensible look and said, “No, Daddy, I have to eat my dinner first.”
He did not supply the rest of the sentence: “… and I don’t feel that I can really trust you to supply that.”
But then, to be honest, he did not really need to.